Council Bans Smoking in Jackson Restaurants

After three failed starts this morning, an amendment to change a 2003 city ordinance banning smoking in all businesses except standalone bars passed the Jackson City Council this morning. "We're very excited," said Jennifer Cofer, executive director of the American Lung Association of Mississippi and chairwoman of anti-tobacco group Communities for a Clean Bill of Health. "The council saw that they needed to revisit this issue and vote on something today for the city of Jackson. Although it is not 100 percent inclusive, it's the best we can do given the current environment here in the city. This means we can protect the most Mississippians we can without that one exemption.

The amendment, referred by Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler as "Alternative A," altered a smoking ban proposal that passed the council's planning committee in March, which called for local restaurants containing bars to install individual ventilation systems for their bar and restaurant sections.

The council originally voted down Alternative A, with only Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill, Crisler and Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon voting in favor. The council then brought forth "Alternative B," a blanket ban on smoking in all Jackson businesses, which would include bars.

That amendment failed with only minority support from Ward 4 Councilman Frank Bluntson, Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman and Council President Leslie McLemore.

With two amendments dead, the council then killed the original ordinance that survived the planning committee, with only a minority of council members in support, including McLemore, Bluntson and Tillman.

"OK, we start all over again," McLemore declared after the vote, explaining that there would be no change in the current city ordinance.

Crisler, still favoring an ordinance change, if not a total ban, then exited the council chambers and conferred with members of an antismoking group Smoke Free Jackson, who flooded the council with royal blue T-shirts proclaiming their support of the ban.

When Crisler returned, he submitted a motion to reconsider "Alternative A." The motion to reconsider passed council approval with a 6-to-0 vote, with Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes not present.

Stokes had voted against all three attempts to expand the city smoking ordinance, but his one vote was not enough to quash the revote for Alternative A, which passed the council with approval of the other six members. Stokes had offered no comment supporting his reasons for extending the ban prior to the votes.

The original ordinance passed by the planning committee would only have affected family restaurants with no bar section, like Cracker Barrel. Spokespeople at Cracker Barrel said they were prepared to ban smoking from their stores in Jackson and did not fear it would hurt business, so long as other family restaurants also complied with the ordinance. The revised ordinance, however, now extends to restaurants such as Schimmel's on State Street and Sal & Mookies—businesses that had expected no consequences from the ordinance debated by the council in March.

Jeff Good, co-owner of Sal & Mookies, Bravo! and Broad Street, said he did not know enough on the fledgling ordinance to hazard a guess on how it might affect business on Tuesday.

Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, had opposed past attempts by the council to ban or restrict smoking in privately owned businesses, but was out of town on the morning the council passed the new ordinance and could not be reached.

Cofer said she believed restaurants would benefit from the ban. "It means the restaurants will see an increase of people coming out to enjoy food at night," Cofer said.

Previous Comments

ID
131791
Comment

Congrats Jackson! I think the city will find that such a ban works to its advantage. There was a lot of grumping when the same ban arrived in Baton Rouge 2 years ago but having gotten a taste of clean air, a majority of people now only frequent establishments where the ban is in effect. Personally, it takes a really good band for me to be willing to brave a smoking establishment these days.

Author
dvc
Date
2008-07-01T17:26:58-06:00
ID
131792
Comment

Sam's Lounge is the only stadalone bar that I can think of. What about the places that you have to be 21 to enter? Is there a ban at those establishments as well?

Author
saint H
Date
2008-07-01T18:03:58-06:00
ID
131793
Comment

I've been screeching these questions ever since we heard, but the answers, so far, aren't very clear. In Mississippi, every bar that serves liquor has to also, technically, be a "restaurant." Some folks we talked to said "standalone" means serving beer only because they don't have to serve food. Another bar/restaurant manager thinks it means that a "bar" with a good ventilation system can allow smoking, but I'm not sure that's in the language. As someone said in the office, technically there are no bars in Mississippi. Only restaurants. So we'll see. I wish I could answer your questions at this stage, but I can't get mine answered, either. Perhaps this will help shake out some answers. It seems clear to me that they should just ban smoking in all bars and restaurants like most cities are doing. As long as everyone around us is doing it, it's not like people are going to flood out of town to be able to flick ashes in their dinner plate. It'll be easier to enforce if smoking is just banned outright. And I suspect a number of restaurants might even see an uptick in business. It's just not 10 years ago anymore. And, er, the evidence is that banning smoking is not hurting the bar business. People just gather outside to smoke.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-01T18:09:03-06:00
ID
131798
Comment

WJTV is reporting that a stand alone bar is one that has "receipts for the sale of food does not exceed 25 percent of the total gross or receipts." Doesn't that change from month to month, or week to week? Will it be last year's average?

Author
msgrits
Date
2008-07-01T23:47:58-06:00
ID
131805
Comment

I'm pretty sure that the ABC requires you to serve food if you serve wine or liquor (AKA why there are no wine bars in MS....gotta love our laws).

Author
QB
Date
2008-07-02T09:17:23-06:00
ID
131807
Comment

I'm not sure that WJTV's report is correct...it seems like 25% of the receipts [edit: in food sales] might be required in order for you to have a liquor permit in the first place. You can have a beer bar (e.g. Musiquarium) and perhaps that would still be smokers allowed. But aside from that, it seems that there is no such thing as a wine or liquor "bar" in MS -- they're all "restaurants."

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2008-07-02T10:50:30-06:00
ID
131833
Comment

Although it's not perfect, I'm glad that there will be some sort of ban. Cigarette smoke does a number on my sinuses, and I always have to wash my hair when I get home if I go somewhere that is full of smoke.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-07-02T14:45:17-06:00

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